Navy Shipyards: Actions Needed to Address the Main Factors Causing Maintenance Delays for Aircraft Carriers and Submarines

GAO-20-588 Published: Aug 20, 2020. Publicly Released: Aug 20, 2020.
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Fast Facts

Substantial maintenance delays persist at the Navy's shipyards. 75% of planned maintenance periods were completed late for aircraft carriers and submarines in FY 2015-2019, with an average delay of 113 days for carriers and 225 days for submarines.

We identified 2 main causes for the delays:

Unplanned work, identified after maintenance planning is finished

Shipyard workforce performance and capacity

As a result, the Navy relies on excessive use of overtime. Our recommendations include addressing workforce requirements to avoid excessive overtime.

A Submarine Undergoing Maintenance at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility

A submarine undergoing maintenance

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Highlights

What GAO Found

The Navy's four shipyards completed 38 of 51 (75 percent) maintenance periods late for aircraft carriers and submarines with planned completion dates in fiscal years 2015 through 2019, for a combined total of 7,424 days of maintenance delay. For each maintenance period completed late, the shipyards averaged 113 days late for aircraft carriers and 225 days late for submarines.

Maintenance Delays at Navy Shipyards for Fiscal Years 2015 through 2019

Maintenance Delays at Navy Shipyards for Fiscal Years 2015 through 2019

Unplanned work and workforce factors—such as shipyard workforce performance and capacity (having enough people to perform the work)—were the main factors GAO identified as causing maintenance delays for aircraft carriers and submarines. The Navy frequently cited both factors as contributing to the same days of maintenance delay. Unplanned work—work identified after finalizing maintenance plans—contributed to more than 4,100 days of maintenance delays. Unplanned work also contributed to the Navy's 36 percent underestimation of the personnel resources necessary to perform maintenance. The workforce factor contributed to more than 4,000 days of maintenance delay on aircraft carriers and submarines during fiscal years 2015 through 2019.

The Navy has taken steps but has not fully addressed the unplanned work and workforce factors causing the most maintenance delays. First, the Navy updated planning documents to improve estimates and plans to annually update these data, but knowing whether changes improve results may take several years. Second, the Navy has consistently relied on high levels of overtime to carry out planned work. GAO's analysis found that high overtime among certain production shops, such as painting or welding, averaged from 25 to 32 percent for fiscal years 2015 through 2019, with peak overtime as high as 45 percent. Furthermore, shipyard officials told us that production shops at all four shipyards are working beyond their capacity. Overtime at such rates has been noted as resulting in diminished productivity. Third, the Navy initiated the Shipyard Performance to Plan initiative in the fall of 2018 to address the unplanned work and workforce factors, but it has not yet developed 13 of 25 planned metrics that could improve the Navy's understanding of the causes of maintenance delays. In addition, the Shipyard Performance to Plan initiative does not include goals, milestones, and a monitoring process along with fully developed metrics to address unplanned work and workforce weaknesses. Without fully developing metrics and implementing goals, action plans, milestones, and a monitoring process, the shipyards are not likely to address unplanned work and workforce weaknesses and the Navy is likely to continue facing maintenance delays and reduced time for training and operations with its aircraft carriers and submarines.

Why GAO Did This Study

For fiscal years 2015 through 2019, the Navy spent $2.8 billion in capital investments to address shipyard performance, among other things. However, the shipyards continue to face persistent and substantial maintenance delays that hinder the readiness of aircraft carriers and submarines.

The Senate Armed Services Committee, in a report accompanying a bill for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019, included a provision for GAO to review Navy shipyards' performance. GAO evaluated the extent to which the Navy (1) completed maintenance at its shipyards on time on aircraft carriers and submarines in fiscal years 2015 through 2019, (2) has identified the main factors leading to maintenance delays, and (3) has addressed the main factors affecting any delays in that maintenance. GAO reviewed data related to Navy shipyard maintenance for fiscal years 2015 through 2019, analyzed factors contributing to delays and plans to address them, visited all four Navy shipyards, and met with Navy and shipyard officials.

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Recommendations

GAO is making three recommendations to the Navy, including updating workforce planning requirements to avoid the consistent use of overtime; completing the development of shipyard performance metrics; and developing and implementing goals, action plans, milestones, and monitoring results. The Navy concurred with all three recommendations.

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of the Navy
Priority Rec.
This is a priority recommendation.
The Secretary of the Navy should ensure that the Naval Sea Systems Command fully analyzes the use of overtime among shipyard production shops, and updates workforce requirements to avoid the consistent use of overtime to meet planned maintenance requirements. (Recommendation 1)
Open
The Navy concurred with this recommendation. In its May 2022 update on the status of our recommendations, the Navy stated that during DoD's Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Execution cycle for fiscal year 2022, the Naval Sea Systems Command analyzed its planned maintenance requirements to provide a balanced and executable workload within the public shipyards. However, in the Navy's fiscal year 2022 Execution Guidance, the Navy continued to include overtime requirements at its shipyards ranging from 14.9 percent to 16.9 percent. In its update, the Navy stated that the use of overtime cannot be avoided. While we understand that some overtime might be needed, as stated in our report the consistent use of high levels of overtime to meet planned workloads has not alleviated the persistent and ongoing maintenance delays and may, instead, be contributing to these delays. To implement our recommendation, the Navy should conduct a dedicated analysis of overtime rates in the shipyard production shops to determine the impact of consistent, high-levels of overtime on the timely completion of maintenance. The Navy should then update its workforce requirements based on that full analysis of its use of overtime.
Department of the Navy The Secretary of the Navy should ensure that the Naval Sea Systems Command identify a timeframe for completing the development of metrics for its Shipyard Performance to Plan initiative and complete the development of metrics to address the main factors contributing to maintenance delays and improve the timely completion of ship maintenance at Navy shipyards. (Recommendation 2)
Open
The Navy concurred with our recommendation. In a May 2022 update on the status of our recommendations, the Navy stated it has developed and incorporated metrics for its Shipyard Performance to Plan initiative. The Navy further stated that it may continue to identify and develop new Performance to Plan metrics, which can change in response to data analysis. We are still awaiting documentation of the Navy's implementation of this recommendation, and we will update its status once received.
Department of the Navy
Priority Rec.
This is a priority recommendation.
The Secretary of the Navy should ensure that the Naval Sea Systems Command develop and implements goals, action plans, milestones, and a monitoring process for its Shipyard Performance to Plan initiative to address the main factors contributing to maintenance delays and improving the timely completion of ship maintenance at Navy shipyards. (Recommendation 3)
Open – Partially Addressed
The Navy concurred with our recommendation. In a May 2022 update on the status of our recommendations, the Navy has shown progress in developing and implementing goals, action plans, milestones, and a monitoring process for P2P. The tier one and two drivers have goals, milestones, and monitoring. The Navy has begun expanding these to lower tier drivers, and has developed some action plans to address factors of delays. However, not all metrics had action plans , and there were some actions plans developed for metrics that the officials said would not show a return on investment. To fully implement our recommendation, the Navy should continue to develop action plans for the remaining factors as appropriate.

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